LINCOLN, Neb. – In a match crucial to its GPAC tournament seeding, the 20th-ranked Concordia University volleyball team unloaded an artillery set loose by junior setter Alayna Kavanaugh. Her perfectly-executed passes sparked the Bulldogs to a 25-13, 25-19, 25-20, win over Nebraska Wesleyan inside Snyder Arena in Lincoln on Wednesday. In the process, Kavanaugh and company completed the program’s first season sweep of the Prairie Wolves since 2006.
Thanks to the victory and Northwestern’s loss at Dordt, Concordia has sewed up the right to host a GPAC quarterfinal match for the second-straight season. The 17th-ranked Red Raiders will visit Seward on Saturday for a 7:30 p.m. first serve in a battle of the league’s Nos. 4 and 5 seeds. The Bulldogs will enter the postseason at 24-7 overall, including a final GPAC mark of 12-4.
“We looked like a pretty good volleyball team tonight,” said fourth-year head coach Scott Mattera. “They really followed the plan tonight. You saw some of the smartest decision making both hitting-wise and read-wise in the back row.
“Overall I’m thrilled with how we played.”
Concordia looked the part of the heavy favorite on Wednesday night, rolling in a decisive first set. Senior outside Claire White got her team off and running with four kills in the opening set before passing the torch to sophomore Annie Friesen in the middle. The Prairie Wolves (9-19, 3-13 GPAC) had no answer for the Wichita, Kan., native, who tore the opposition apart with seven of her 15 kills in the second set.
Friesen helped Concordia dig out from beneath a slight hole in the second game. With setter Alayna Kavanaugh spraying the ball around to find the hot hand, the Bulldogs easily outhit the host Prairie Wolves, .368 to .132. Kavanaugh’s 49 assists were a career best for a straight-sets contest.
“I tried to mix the ball around as much as possible and get everyone going,” Kavanaugh said. “It was a good night for that.”
Not only did Friesen and White combine for 28 kills, outside hitter Paige Getz added nine and right side Tiegen Skains hammered another nine. White’s monster night included 15 digs and a .423 hitting percentage. Friesen needed just 25 attempts to rack up her 15 kills.
On the other side of the net, Nebraska Wesleyan failed to establish much rhythm. Concordia defensive specialist Jocelyn Garcia dug up a match high 19 attacks and Kendra Dinkel pitched in 12 digs. Their work helped limit Nebraska Wesleyan to only six kills in set No. 1 and 27 for the entire match. Conversely, Concordia floored 54 kills, including 22 in a third set power display.
“Alayna is distributing like crazy. She really made great decisions,” Mattera said. “And I have to give a shout out to Paige. She’s not feeling well at all and you wouldn’t have known it at all.”
By notching its 24th win of the season on Wednesday, Concordia has its highest win total since 2005 and has tied for the sixth most wins in a single season in program history.
Nebraska Wesleyan, which is in its final season as a member of the GPAC, got a team high six kills from Malory Dahl and Kierra Harder. The Prairie Wolves’ 2015 campaign came to an end on Wednesday.
In one of Saturday’s GPAC quarterfinal tilts, Concordia will welcome No. 17 Northwestern (24-7, 12-4 GPAC) in a match scheduled to get underway at 7:30 p.m. inside Walz Arena. In this season’s first meeting, the then 18th-ranked Bulldogs upset the 11th-ranked Red Raiders in five sets in Orange City, Iowa, on Sept. 26. Saturday’s winner will advance to the semifinals to play either top-seeded Dordt or eighth-seeded College of Saint Mary on Wednesday, Nov. 11.